My son is gone on holiday with a friend's family to South Carolina. He left on July 20 and will return on August 1st. I've looked upon it as a training ground for September. While my husband and I are used to our son's absence, generally, he is home at bed time, and we see him every day. This extended period of his being gone, and us being alone all the time is rather familiar, but yet not.
We were typical newlyweds. We spent time together, learning to live together, learning about each other, growing in Christ together, and developing a social life as well as a life at church, serving. We could stay up late and sleep in late. We could spend a lot of time in uninterrupted talking, and in times of silence. Our lives were focused ahead as my husband finished his education and prepared to enter a career.
And then along came our children, and our focus moved. It has to when you have children. When we had no children, our conversation revolved around ourselves, really; our thoughts about this, or reactions to that; our jobs, our parents, our friends. When the kids came along, our focus was on them. Much of our conversation and energy as a couple went into building our family for the glory of God, instructing them, playing with them, loving them, worrying about them. And now, here we are in 2012, with that last little cherub 18 year sold, and all set to move on to university. And so, we find ourselves alone again.
But it is different. We are different. We have grown spiritually and emotionally. We know each other well. We have a common history. We have been together more than half of our lives.
We are coming out on the other side of the teen years. They were often difficult years. I remember when my oldest was 12 years old, I thought to myself, "I'm not going to have difficult teen years. We're going to enjoy them." And of course, we did, but they were hard years, too. Teenagers think independently; they challenge us; they struggle. It's often hard to find the wisdom, and always, we wonder, "Have I said the right thing?" We are dealing with serious matters. We have one wish, and one wish only: that they love and serve the Lord their God. We feel angry with them, but we love them fiercely. We cast our cares on Him. We pray. Sometimes, we cry.
All of that stress can interfere with time alone for a husband and a wife. It can drain us, leaving us feeling rather spent at the end of the day. My husband rarely shows stress, but during our kids' teen years, he was more serious than I'd known him to be in our early married life. The responsibility of leading our family was ever present in his mind, I'm sure. When you struggle with teens, sometimes, it's hard to muster a lot of energy for time together, as many with a houseful of teens can attest to. Those books about how to date your wife, and all the things a man is supposed to do for his wife feel a little irritating when you're lucky if you can get home from work by 6:00, and then when you do, you have to deal with an unruly teenager.
But now, we're moving on from that as our kids are maturing. The weight is a little less, and we are more in the guidance phase of parenting. It frees not only our time, but our attention, too. There is a lightness in my husband that reminds me of when we first met, but it's a lightness with accompanying wisdom. It makes me happy for him, because he bore so much of the emotional burden during some hard years.
I know a lot of women who fear the time when their kids leave, and I am still not entirely sure how I'll feel in October, when the thrill of less laundry has worn off. But I know that this season of life when my husband and I are just the two of us again is God ordained, and He has a purpose for us, to continue to be there for our kids, but giving each other time and attention, still seeking to honour God in all we do.